30/05/2016 09:37 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Charming Paintings Using Kitchen Soot

Using only grinding stones, needles, razors and soot-blackened bamboo sticks, a farmer in the township of Long Khanh in Dong Nai Province  has made his name known in artistic circles with unique paintings made with kitchen soot and bamboo.
Vu Quoc Su is called a “farmer painter” because he did not study art at any school.  Su said that he started his career in the arts by chance. Ten years ago when removing his bamboo kitchen, he saw soot-blackened bamboo pieces with different images caused by scratches on the surface so he attached the pieces of bamboo tightly together and then scraped soot on them  using his fertile imagination, thereby creating a strange-looking painting. That was when the idea of drawing pictures from soot was generated.

Bamboo sticks are split and smoothing. 

Grafting bamboo sticks . 

Some tools and materials for making kitchen soot paintings.

The bases for painting are put above a cooking stove to be smoked for three months to attain the right colour. 

The painting is covered with a paint coat for preservation and ease of cleaning.

Painter Vu Quoc Su and his kitchen soot paintings in Long Khanh Town, Dong Nai Province.


His first work of art “Lang que ven song” (Riverside Village) depicting a peaceful fishing village on a river bank surrounded by bamboo plants required much time and effort. To create the best one, he made it several times. The more  he made, the more skillful he became and the lines of his paintings looked more flexible and soft. He has made a series of paintings with different themes, such as the landscape of Vietnam and foreign countries, portraits of celebritie  and important historical events.

Soot paintings have  two overwhelming colors;  the black  of soot and the pale yellow of bamboo. All shapes and details are meticulously done to reveal the depth and diverse contents of the painting. Su said that creating a picture from soot is not as easy as drawing on paper so it takes him about six months to complete one. He selects the bamboo, splits and submerges them in water to protect them from termites. The splints are woven to make the base for the pictures and then put above a cooking stove to be smoked for three months to attain the right colour.

Only when the bamboo is covered with a shiny back coat, can Su start painting. The most difficult part is creating depth for the painting which require the artist’s carefulness and meticulousness. Furthermore, the painter needs to know which part has to be scraped deeply or lightly to create the right tones. If only one detail is done wrong, the artist must start from the beginning. Having been engaged in the art for nine years, he has created only 150 paintings in his own style which have been showcased at a number of exhibitions in Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City.

The work “100 USD" - 90cmx120cm. 

Soot paintings have two overwhelming colours; the black of soot and the pale yellow of bamboo.

Charming lines make the painting more soulful. 

The work “Before Earthquake”.

The work “After earthquake”.

The work “Vietnam’s Sea and Islands”.

The work “Eiffel Tower”.

Peaceful scene in the countryside on a soot painting. 

A work relating to the Buddhism.  

A set of  paintings of “Cedar – Daisy – Bamboo – Apricot”.

The simple beauty of paintings made from familiar materials leave strong impressions on viewers.

Su has also registered a brand name for his paintings and he wants to make the new art more popular as a way of promoting Vietnamese culture abroad. Apart from bamboo, the artist is currently trying out other materials like glass, mica, plastic, and dried gourd shells.
Story: Son Nghia - Photos: Nguyen Luan